Skip to main content

Science Fiction and its Subgenres

Now that we have a working set of boundaries for determining which stories to include in the body of works that we call Science Fiction, it's time to look into the main sub-genres within SF. This is probably one of the most unknown issues for readers of other genres, and oddly enough some SF writers as well: not all Science Fiction stories take place in outer space or involve laser weapons and the props of Star Trek.

For a very good list of the sub-genres of SF, take a look at Writing World. Each item on their list has a brief description of it, but I intend to build upon those definitions, and others, to expand their scope and help clarify the sometimes confusing landscape of the Science Fiction genre.

The Sub-genres suggested by Writing World are:
Alternate history
Apocalyptic, holocaust, and post-apocalyptic
Cross-genre
Cyberpunk
First contact
Hard science fiction
Light/humorous science fiction
Military science fiction
Near-future science fiction
Science fantasy/future fantasy
Slipstream
Soft/sociological science fiction
Space opera
Time travel

However, many of these sub-genres are not exclusive to SF, and there are others not included in the list, at least not explicitly. The first problematic sub-genre is Alternate History, as many of them do not meet the criteria for being considered SF aside from taking place in a time other than that of the author; one good example of this is Fatherland by Robert Harris, which takes place in the mid 1960's in Germany, after the Nazis have won WWII; in this novel the setting is anything but Science Fictional, in fact it's more of a detective novel than anything else.

Another sub-genre that causes problems is Science Fantasy/Future Fantasy. This is a borderline genre, some stories closer to Paranormal Romances than to Hard Science Fiction, and some the other way around, therefore in this instance it is necessary to look at it on a case by case basis.

Finally the list omits one of Science Fiction's most acknowledged sub-genres: Dystopia. It could be argued that this is included in the Apocalyptic, holocaust, and post-apocalyptic sub-genre, but this would leave out books such as Orwell's 1984 or Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 to name just the two most well known books in this category; dystopia is an anti-utopia, a highly negative social environment, often represented by totalitarianism, a regression to middle and dark ages rule, where the individual has lost all freedom (even if appearances deceive, as in Huxley's Brave New World). I will expand on the issue of Dystopia, and the rest of the sub-genres later on in more detailed posts, but for now this should be sufficient.

Any ideas on this list of sub-genres? should there be more, less, it's fine the way it is? I'd love to hear your opinions on this.

Comments

  1. Thanks Kate. Took me a while to put the post together.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Grammar Nazi time, the title of your blog is mispelled.

    It should be "Science Fiction & Political Thought" and not "Science Fiction & Political Thougt".

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for the correction K. I hadn't noticed the typo and have already corrected it.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

My top 5 political science fiction books

I have been working for a long time on this post, and I'm still not 100% sure about it, but one thing is certain, if I keep on waiting for it to be "perfect" it will never be published, and besides this is my personal list, so if you disagree with the inclusion (or exclusion) of a given book, please let me know in the comments. These are five individual novels that have shaped political science fiction over the past century, and as such I have chosen them as five must reads for anyone interested in this subject; I am working also on a post about sagas, trilogies and series, so you will not find here some titles that would seem obvious otherwise.
1. A Brave New World - Aldous Huxley. Coming from a society as structured and divided by social class as early 20th century England, this is one sharp critique of the direction society was taking at the time, and even today it still has some troubling warnings to be heeded. If you haven't read it be sure to grab a copy of it…

George Orwell's 1984... Defining Government Surveillance and Citizen Paranoia since 1948

This blog cannot not be complete without an article that deals with probably one of the best known political sci-fi stories of all times: George Orwell's 1984 (Signet Classics). This is probably the best known authoritarian model in contemporary literature, as it gave us terms we now use colloquially, such as "Big Brother Is Watching", and evidently the whole concept of government as an unwanted Big Brother snooping into our private lives, looking for ways to control us through propaganda and mass media.

One of the most interesting details about this story is the fact that Orwell was a member of the British Communist Party, and had been highly critical of them, as can be seen in Animal Farm, where he portrays the communists as the pigs who overthrow the human masters, only to become just like them in the end, which is a theme he will go on to expand on in 1984, when he talks about the way that revolutions work, and how they are nothing more than a change in the name of …

Rediscovering a love for Space Opera

Recently I decided that dystopias, post-apocalyptic scenarios and deep examinations of the human spirit were tiring me, I decided to look for something a little less demanding intellectually, and decided to turn to space opera, looking for fast paced, thrilling, action packed stories that were straight forward and didn't need to be read two or three times to find the hidden meaning behind the characters words and actions, but being the kind of reader that I am, and despite my earlier decision to keep space opera out of these little forays into the deeper meanings of Speculative Fiction, I find myself writing this article.

First off, there is a ton of Space Operas out there, many of them so bad that I couldn't go beyond the first chapter, in which the scantily clad heroine is chased by the bug-eyed monster... oh wait, that was actually a 50's movie, but you get my meaning. Those are precisely the kind of things that had led me away from space opera as a worthwhile sub-genr…